Integrating 3D cell culture of PC12 cells with microchip-based electrochemical detection†
Developing in vitro cell culture models that accurately mimic in vivo processes in a manner that also enables near real-time analysis of neurotransmitters is an important research area. New technologies being developed such as 3D scaffolds for cell culture and 3D printed microfluidics provide an opportunity for such advancements. In this work, PC12 cells were used as a model system and they were immobilized onto a 3D scaffold of polystyrene (PS) fibers. These fibers were created by electrospinning onto PS sheets, which were laser cut and, after cell seeding, inserted into a 3D printed microfluidic device. The 3D printed device was designed with threads for connecting commercial fittings (to integrate automated pumps and a 4-port injection system) and a steel pin for simple coupling with PDMS/polystyrene analytical devices. A straight PDMS channel was used for simple (and continuous) flow-based detection by sealing onto a PS base containing an embedded gold array working electrode and a platinum pseudo-reference. Electrochemical detection of stimulated catecholamine release was demonstrated. The insert-based system was then integrated with a bilayer valving PDMS device (for microchip electrophoresis) sealed onto a PS base (with electrodes for electrochemical detection). This base was embedded with a Pd decoupler (for grounding the separation voltage and adsorbing hydrogen) and a 33 μm carbon fiber working electrode for in-channel detection. PC12 cells were stimulated in the 3D cell culture device, and the valving/electrophoresis microchip was able to separate and detect dopamine and norepinephrine release. This work demonstrates the ability to integrate 3D cell scaffolds with microchip-based analysis for detection of multiple analytes released from cells.